ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team won its second straight game and first over a ranked opponent this season with a 71-59 victory over No. 10/12 Wisconsin, Sunday (Feb. 22) at Crisler Arena. The Wolverines, who evened their Big Ten record at 6-6, used strong defensive pressure and 58.1 percent shooting from the floor to shutdown the Badgers swing offense, holding them to 37.5 percent (21-for-56) from the field including just 3-of-20 from the three-point line.
Brown scored all nine of his points in the first half to help U-M to a 38-30 halftime edge.
Sophomore Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS)
led the team with 17 points, going 5-for-7 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line. His 38-minute performance helped Michigan (15-8, 6-6 Big Ten) to maintain a scoring flow, as he contributed three steals on top of his good point total. Freshman Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass./Noble & Greenough School)
had a strong showing under the hoop, scoring 14 points, coming down with five boards, and stuffing three blocks. Senior Bernard Robinson
Jr. (Washington, D.C./New Hampton Prep [N.H.])
rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points, going 4-for-7 from the field including three triples. He commanded the floor, forcing turnovers on defense and maintained the offensive flow, dishing off six assists.
The first 20 minutes of play faired well for the Wolverines, as good shooting helped them build a solid lead. The team shot a staggering 75 percent (15-for-20) from the field and nearly 58 percent (4-for-7) from the long line. Sophomore Graham Brown (Mio, Mich./Mio-AuSable HS) proved to be a strong presence in the paint, tallying nine for the half thanks to good passes under the basket. Robinson led the pack for the half with 11 points including three triples and four assists, showing a textbook performance in helping the Maize and Blue gain their lead.
Wisconsin tried to set a slow pace early on in the half, passing the ball around the perimeter on offense and trying to stuff it inside. They were having trouble connecting for buckets, however, and the Wolverines took advantage. Michigan responded with a quick offense, converting steals and rebounds into points to take an early 9-5 lead with 15:48 to play in the half.
Michigan came out with a confident offense, staying calm and hitting the mark, going 7-for-9 from the field in the first 12:22 of the half. But the Badgers took advantage of foul calls against the Wolverines and shifted the tides for the next five minutes of play. Kicked off by Wisconsin guard Devin Harris who put up seven points in under a minute, the Badgers went on a 13-1 run to catch and surpass the Wolverines with a 22-16 score.
The Wolverines maintained composure, keeping a steady offense without panic. Down by six with eight minutes to go, Robinson busted out a triple to put Michigan within three (22-19). Others followed suit, and the Wolverines fought their way back to a 28-27 lead courtesy of a 12-5 run over a four-minute span. Brown continued strong play in the post, putting up another five points including a three-point play to put Michigan on top.
Once the Wolverines took the one-point advantage, the team rattled off an additional 10-straight points to leave Wisconsin in the dust. Michigan's sharp shooting allowed the points to build up, ending with a 38-27 lead with under a minute remaining in first-half play. The Badgers' silence ended after a foul at the long line allowed Wisconsin's Harris to drain all three at the stripe to end the half with a 38-30 Michigan lead going into the locker rooms.
Michigan came out for the second half with the same control they showed in the first, setting a comfortable offensive pace and continuing to sink most of what they threw at the hoop. The Wolverines maintained good post play, turning to points in the paint for the first five minutes. Sims rattled off three quick buckets including a slam to kick off the half for Michigan, but Badger forward Mike Wilkinson countered with hoops under the net as well, mirroring Sims' six points. With 15:55 on the clock, the Wolverines carried a 44-34 lead to keep Wisconsin at a safe distance.
The pace of the game began to slow as scoring began to alternate between the teams. Michigan's lead remained intact as the Maize and Blue's offense continued to run like a well-oiled machine. The Wolverines went to the post time and again to sink the shots necessary to hold the lead. With the help of good ball handling and passes by the Michigan guards, Sims, freshman Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS), and sophomore Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS) were able to put up hoops under the basket as well as draw fouls resulting in points off free throws.
Though the Badgers never stopped converting plays into points, the Wolverines' solid performance left them out of the contest. With nine minutes remaining in the game, Michigan was looking at a 55-44 lead with no signs of turning back. The Wolverine defense kept Wisconsin at bay, allowing Michigan's offense to counter all of the Badgers' moves. More of Michigan's points began to come off free throws as Wisconsin resorted to fouls to stop the Wolverines' shots from the field. For the remaining nine minutes of the contest, 10 of the Wolverines' 16 points would come via the free throw, and they hit the mark with 100 percent (10-for-10) accuracy.
All the Wolverines had to do was wait as the clock ticked down with their lead still intact. Despite efforts by Wisconsin to stay in the game, all they were able to do was keep Michigan from putting even more distance between the teams. As the final seconds ticked away, Abram held onto the ball to end the contest 71-59 to a standing ovation from the Michigan faithful.
The Wolverines will face intrastate rival Michigan State for the second time this season in their next contest. This time around, the Maize and Blue will host the Spartans, Tuesday (Feb. 24), at Crisler Arena. The ESPN national telecast is schedule for a 7 p.m. tipoff and will be broadcast in ESPN high definition. Earlier this season, the Spartans took a 71-54 decision at the Breslin Center (Jan. 17).
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423